January 31, 2017

Thankfulness - Guest Post by Bryan Norford

It’s all too easy to complain, isn’t it? Yet at the same time, we long for contentment. Complaint and contentment are incompatible. And the truth is, we have far more to be thankful for than to complain about.

But isn’t it simplistic to say the supreme gratitude for the abundant life in Christ we have now, outranks complaint of any person or problem that comes our way. Of course, if we fail to express thankfulness, it will seem simplistic.

The supreme value of thankfulness, is it’s ability to raise us up to the place where we belong, seated with the Father in heavenly places. Without it, we wallow in the dirt of earth, often seeking contentment in the surrounding environment. The world offers nothing but fading hope.

Godliness with contentment is great gain (1Tim. 6:6). Real contentment is impossible without fellowship with God. And that is based on our thankfulness to Him. God’s will for us in Christ is: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances,” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

Humankind declines into a futile mind and a darkened heart when lacking two essentials: recognizing God’s glory and thanking Him (Rom. 1:21). So commences a downward spiral. The reverse process leads to an opposite conclusion.

Acknowledging God’s eternal power and nature and giving Him thanks raises us above our earthly problems and pursuits, to a place of pervading joy that dominates the changing scenes of life. Thankfulness brings contentment by changing our attitudes to an unpredictable life.

My necessary prayer is to thank God for wife and family, food, clothing, shelter in abundance, a soft chair and a warm bed. Despite encroaching prostate cancer, I still have sufficient health, strength, and the ability to write. I have contentment where I am.

May 2017 be a year of renewed thankfulness for the continuing daily provision from His hand, the abundant life promised, and the eternal life to come.

January 29, 2017

Winter Is Not Forever by Bob Jones

Some words sound like they mean. Take the word “languish” – defined as “remaining in an unpleasant place.” January can be an intense month for those who are languishing. But there is hope and gratitude.

Dr. Merry Lin, a registered clinical psychologist says, “One of the biggest mental health issues I see on a regular basis isn’t depression or anxiety. Its people who are languishing.”

Languishing is not the presence of mental illness; it’s the absence of mental and emotional vitality. Dr Lin calls it the “winter of your soul.”

The winter of our souls can feel all-consuming and never ending. The good news is winter is not forever.

Dr Lin has over twenty years of experience in counseling individuals, couples, and families on a variety of personal issues.  She found herself “languishing” a few years ago.

Dr Lin observed five things that contributed to the winter of her soul:

1. Living a life of ignored introspection.
2. Action valued over reflection.
3. Rushing through life mindlessly.
4. Not growing through hardships.
5. Not knowing that she was stuck or why she was stuck.

10 Statements Of The Languishing
Use the rankings below to evaluate where you are.
1 = not at all true
2 = sometimes
3 = often
4 = most of the time
5 = completely true

1. I am juggling my responsibilities and feel like I can’t keep up with the demands of life.
2. When I stop I feel emotionally or physically exhausted.
3. I wish I could take a significant break to rest and reflect on my life with some soul-searching.
4. My spiritual life feels dry and lifeless.
5. I have a hard time sensing God’s presence in my life or experiencing His love for me.
6. I seem to struggle with the same issues over and over in my life and don’t know why.
7. I don’t like to think about negative or uncomfortable things for too long and I distract myself to feel better.
8. I’m uncomfortable with strong emotions and would rather focus on practical, sensible things.
9. I feel stuck, knowing I need to make some changes but unsure where to start.
10. People rely on me and think of me as competent, but I don’t know how I feel or if I care anymore.

If your total score is 10-20 you appear to have good self-awareness. Use the opportunity to truly live out what you know.

If your total score is 21-30 your life could use some improvement. Take a look at the scores of 3 and higher to identify what you need to focus on.

If you total score is 31-50 take heed. Seize this opportunity to re-calibrate your life.

Re-calibrating Your Life
1.  Start by simply affirming that God cares about you. He knows where are you and how you feel. He will help you move your life forward.

2. Ask yourself, “What activities, tasks, or relationships are draining the life away from me?”
Write down everything you’ve done – or tried to do – in the past month – your meetings, tasks, events, responsibilities, connections, etc. Are these things sapping your energy or bearing fruit?

3. Note the things that are rooted in fear or insecurity.

4. Work at addressing one issue at a time. Tackle the one you feel is most simple to deal with. Then address the next one.

5. Thank God for his favor.

Taking time to re-calibrate in winter will ready you for spring and the new life God is bringing to you.

Robert (Bob) W. Jones is a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. His office walls are adorned with his sons’ framed football jerseys, and his library shelves, with soul food. He writes to inspire people to be real, grow an authentic faith in Jesus, enjoy healthy relationships and discover their life purpose.

January 28, 2017

Praise God for the Ionosphere - Bruce Atchison

Believe it or not, your AM radio can help you with your writing. It's especially useful if you're writing a story written in a different city or town and you want to put more local flavour in your story.

Thanks to our long winter nights and lack of lightning interference, we can hear distant stations on ordinary AM radios throughout the evening. This is because God created a layer of ionized air called the Ionosphere. This layer bounces signals from great distances back to earth rather than shooting off into space.

After the national news, these stations often air local news. The stories could easily be adapted to fictional plots.

By tuning away from the local stations, you can hear many of these signals quite clearly. Additionally, I've found that I can turn my portable radios to certain directions and hear one station while turning them ninety degrees brings in another station.

Even local commercials are useful when you're writing about a certain place. You can find out what those businesses offer and which ones would be of interest to your protagonist or antagonist.

But why not, some folks might ask, listen to radio online? The audio is crystal clear and the web site has all sorts of additional information on the location where the station is. The fact that radio signals come in from thousands of miles away with no artificial help is astonishing.

Cruising the AM dial can also be done anywhere, provided that you're not in the middle of a concrete and steel building. Hearing distant stations is especially good in rural locations due to the lack of electrical interference.

Having loved listening to distant AM stations at night since 1967, I've learned much from what those stations broadcast. One thing I found is that all municipalities have generally the same problems of corruption, scandal, and difficulties with taxation. This demonstrates to me that human nature is the same wherever we are from. We live in a fallen world and only Christ can change us.

I wrote about my love affair with distant signals in my Deliverance from Jericho memoir. While having to stay at an institute for the blind during my childhood, radio was my link to the outside world. Life would have been intolerable without it.

January 26, 2017

After the Storm by Marnie Pohlmann

Soft flakes of snow bring joy, for there is fun to be had in mountain playgrounds. Children cheer as they bundle into snowsuits to build forts and taste winter on their tongues. Diamonds glisten in the yard, and hoar frost dresses the trees in fuzzy coats. The brisk air colors cheeks red while the sun shines in a blue sky to bring a few hours of delightful daylight into a Christmas card landscape.

Yet sometimes, icy snow blows against the windows and gathers in deep drifts against doors. This is the brutal blizzard that makes driveways indiscernible from the yard. Deep grooves through the snow over icy roadways guide the vehicles of those who must go out. Most of us choose to sit inside a warm home and wait for the storm to wane.

In a small mountain town where my family began, the average winter snowfall was 13 feet for the season from October to March.  Temperatures could dip below -40C for days at a time. One year we had 16 feet of snow on the flat, with great walls looming along roadways and driveways. The last year we lived there, there was only 4 hours of recorded sunlight for a whole month because most days the clouds, whether coming or going, dropped a new heavy blanket over the town.

Many may wonder why we would choose to live in a place that gets such weather. Many escape to tropical locations to avoid the winter. While there are days I would love to be lying on the beach rather than putting on an extra pair of socks, I must say winter helps me appreciate life.

I like living in places that have four distinct seasons. When life is Winter dark, I know Spring light will eventually lengthen the days and bring new growth. When I am in the Summer heat too long, the Autumn colours will soon explode, leading into times of more rest and winter reflection. Even though I often reside where winter is longer than the spring, summer, and autumn, experiencing each season helps me put life in perspective.

For example, weathering this year's winter of struggles, I am reminded of Elijah's story in 1 Kings 19.

When Elijah became depressed, feeling tired, fearful, and alone, he went to a cave where he waited out a storm, an earthquake, and a fire. Finally, the weather changed and a warm breeze blew. That is when Elijah heard the voice of God giving him direction for the next step in his journey.

We are not told how Elijah spent his time while waiting in the cave. Perhaps he complained and wallowed in his muddy misery. Or perhaps he made a list of blessings, kept a thankfulness journal, sang happy songs, or even read some Scripture, because these activities provide positive changes in thinking and attitude. Or maybe he just waited, resting and trusting that God would redeem his dark time.

The exercise of positive thinking, encouraged by list-making, writing, and music, is a way to stop us from dwelling on the darkness, helps us look toward the future, and changes negative self-talk into positive self-image. The Bible teaches us to renew our mind, and these ways to positive thinking help do just that.

I confess this year I have not been good at practicing the positive thinking lifestyle. It's not that I am ungrateful or lack faith, but life's storms and stresses have made me cold. I have no energy to change my tired, fearful, lonely feelings into positive messages that will lead to thinking about the storms as a wonderful time. They have not been wonderful or joyful. So, like Elijah, I will wait for the storm to pass. I have not lost faith in God. I recognize the "power" in the "power of positive thinking" is not me. Only God has the power to change me from the inside out in a way that is sustainable even in a raging storm.

It does no good to shovel the driveway while the snow is still falling heavily or drifting with a strong wind that hurts my face. It is better just to huddle in a warm place. There is nothing I can do about the storm.  I cannot change the weather or some circumstances of life. I know the One who can, though, so I will wait through the storms, earthquakes, and fires in life for a calmer time; a time when I can hear God's voice.

Then the work begins. The shoveling through drifts and doubts so I can hear God's direction for the next step in my journey. God will redeem the frost-bite pain of hard, dark times. They will become diamonds in my life landscape, places for laughter and building. God has faithfully taken me through storms before, so I know He will again.

Are you hibernating in a winter season of your life? Please know it is not wrong to be suffering. Pain and injury can be healed. Be kind to yourself. Be patient. The storms will calm, and God will continue to direct your path.

*Photos of word cloud courtesy of Pixabay.com
Photos of tree, shovel by Marnie Pohlmann

Marnie writes from a winter land. Follow her life and learning at Phosphorescent.

January 25, 2017

Choosing A Different Winter By Vickie Stam

Sometimes I just haven't been as thankful as I should have been when it comes to the changing seasons in Canada. Yes, I was born and raised here, still I have my favourite seasons and winter isn't one of them. 

Far too often I found myself daydreaming about being somewhere else, even when I had the pleasure of curling up in a comfortable chair next to a roaring fireplace. That still didn't quite measure up to the warmth I imagined myself feeling underneath a sunny sky in Florida. 

I could picture myself armed with an umbrella to shield myself from the occasional down pour. It certainly beat the thought of gripping the handle of a shovel. The white flakes always have a tendency of staying put once they arrive. I must admit that I enjoy the snow for a couple of days and then I wish it would leave. But Canadian winters don't come and go simply on a wish.          

To be honest, my mind starts compiling a long list of complaints with every upcoming winter. The moment those October winds begin to pick up I just know it won't be long before the beautiful landscape of colour will disappear. The leaves will fall from their branches and won't return for what feels like a long time.  

That blanket of white that comes along with the cold temperatures is much less desirable to me the older I get. I guess you could say, I've had my fill of long winters.      

Three years ago, my husband, Tony and I opted to join those who travel to sunny Florida for the winter. We slowly transitioned into "snowbird" mode, going down for one week a month and this year we've planned to stay there until Spring. 

It feels wonderful to be able to get in our car and leave the minus temperatures behind us. Twenty four hours later we find ourselves trading our winter for an entirely different one.

There's something exciting about the contrast of a long silent winter to hearing the sound of birds still singing in January and leaves still rubbing against one another in the wind. Our surroundings in Florida are influenced by tall palm trees, the occasional glimpse of an alligator and the sudden risk of a tornado. What an amazing difference from one day to the next - from one country to the next!  

During our stay in Florida we feel blessed to attend a nearby church; a place where we've built friendships among Christians in another country. But what I'm most thankful for is knowing that God is with us wherever we go. Whether we're at home in Canada or at home in the United States, Jesus is with us. He remains at the center of our lives wherever we are. 

Not everyone is fond of every season. Whether you choose to strap on a pair of snowshoes and head outside for a walk in the snow or take your sandals off and walk along the beach, remember that no day or season in your life is complete without your Heavenly Father. 



January 24, 2017

Winter is a Gift from God - by Tandy Balson

The winter beauty astounds me.  Yes, it is extremely cold outside but I am looking at it from a nice warm house. I stop and thank God for providing protection from the cold.

When the temperature dips to -20°C and below the snow is so fine it’s hard to see.  As I walk past the window, a beam of light highlights sparkling snow that looks like glitter being sprinkled from above. I am compelled to call each person in the house to the exact spot I’d been standing in, so they, too, can experience this incredible sight.

Another morning I awoke to an ice fog. When it lifted, the cold, sunny morning revealed frost covering the bare branches of nearby trees. Set against the azure sky, the effect was breathtaking. Until I moved to Alberta, I had never seen this kind of frost.  The ice crystals have formed on only one side of the branches.  It’s not only on trees.  The antenna on our truck looks like it has a fringe that froze in place as it stretched out in the breeze. I reach for my camera to capture this incredible sight.

Thank you, Lord, for showing me the splendour of your creation. The world around me sparkles like precious diamonds.

I am reminded that God delights in providing blessings in unexpected places. Even in the cold winter of my soul, when the hope of new life seems so far away, he is working for my good. His mercies are new every morning. I will rest in the Lord, knowing that winter is one of his precious gifts.

“He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes.” Psalm 147:16

January 22, 2017

The Mystery of the Setting Sun By Alan Anderson

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,” I Cor. 15:51

In these early days of 2017 I am thankful to God my journey has not ended yet. With the approach of a New Year there is a sense of mystery. Don’t you think? That’s how I see it. It is the mystery of the unfolding of another chapter of my life story as I journey on. So far the sun has risen for me each morning.

Every year is also a mystery of God’s unfolding story in me as one of His kids. I have no idea of what is ahead but God is there. I thank Him for the gift of mystery! I thank Him for a faith that gives me strength to carry on in this life.

In looking back on 2016 and other past years there is sense of poignancy in my heart. I remember loved ones and friends to whom I said fare thee well. Their journeys ended yet their memories are sweet and enduring. They are ones who now “sleep.” The sun has set for them yet they are with the risen Son!

I like to walk. I like to walk with one foot after the other. Perhaps I’m too cautious at times. I have, however, been known to take risks in life. The challenge is for me not to get ahead of God and mess things up. From experience I know that can hurt. I have to let God be God and realize mystery may be good for me!

A few days ago I went for a walk on the dike a couple minutes from home with Terry (my wife) and our dog Charlie. It was late in the afternoon but still light enough for a walk. It was chilly and such a beautiful afternoon. We walked with Charlie and took pictures of each other. As we were heading home Charlie and I walked a little bit ahead of Terry. She took a photo of Charlie and me. When I saw it later it spoke to me as walking into the setting winter sun. It was the inspiration for this post.

Walks on the dike often inspire me. Rain or shine the scenery surrounding the dike speaks to me. I listen to God in the quiet majesty of His creation. I thank Him for such an intimate relationship with the beauty around me. Such beauty helps me to be patient as I walk into the mystery of what lies ahead.

There are things in the shadow of God’s mystery for me to behold, look forward to and trust. For instance, I look forward in 2017 to knowing what it feels like to have some of my writing published. This is exciting! It is a path I walk in the company of my friends Glynis, Ruth, Carolyn, Barb, Donna and Amanda! They have walked such a path before. It is uncharted territory for me! It is still a mystery.

One day I will walk into my setting sun. Slowly but surely light will give way to darkness and I still will hope. I will be changed! I will know what the mystery means. I will look upon the risen Son!

Blog: ScarredJoy@wordpress.com

January 20, 2017

Living the Dream by Joylene M. Bailey

On a Tuesday night a few years ago I arrived at choir practice to discover that our conductor had been unexpectedly called away. An interim director had arrived in his place. I had never met him before but it was obvious that other choir members already knew him when I heard them greet him by name and ask him how he was.

He smiled and said, “Living the dream!”
What struck me more than his answer, was the sincerity of his answer. His life was no better or worse than mine. But his perspective was from a positive place.

Since then I have tried out that phrase myself a few times. Most recently at the bank, where the teller carelessly threw out the accepted greeting:

“Hello. How are you today?”
“Living the dream,” I replied.
He did a double take and I smiled.
I thought about that phrase again today as I drove home.

It has become habit for me, as I turn into the cul-de-sac where we live, to push a button in my car’s visor. The button that makes our garage door GO UP!

Wonder of wonders!

I don’t have to get out of my car in -35 degree weather, as I did 9+ years ago, to wrench open the garage door by hand. 

Last week I had the most wonderful sleep I’ve had in months. When I tried to figure out what I had done differently the day before that might have caused such peaceful rest, I realized that the one and only thing I had done differently was to spend 20 minutes shoveling snow!

I live in a warm house where there are NO BUGS in winter!! No giant spiders crawling up my walls, or dangerous snakes slithering through my yard. And all the annoying flies & mosquitos have disappeared.

Thank God for snow to shovel, sweet sleep in cozy bed, warm house, no bugs. Thank God for crisp air to breathe, and snowflakes that I can HEAR hitting my jacket one by one.

And thank God for garage door openers!

I am living the dream.

Joylene is living the dream with her Cowboy, Babe, and a cat named Calvin in Edmonton. You can find her blogging at Scraps of Joy - a joy-infused view of the world.

photo credit: joeldinda <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/96739609@N00/31609159925"></a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Midwest Region <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/49208525@N08/31644649105">Winter Wonderland at Treampealeau National Wildlife Refuge</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>